Archive for July 12th, 2010

New national science standards in the works

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Following in the footsteps of the states-led common core standards effort in math and English (but not directly associated with that effort), the National Research Council just released a “conceptual framework” document for a future draft of the next generation science standards. In other words, the National Research Council is in the process of creating a new set of science standards that states can adopt or use in the creation/updating of each state’s own standards. The organization now wants public input on what has been produced so far. This draft framework generally outlines “the major scientific ideas and practices that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school.”

It’s good to see that evolution plays a prominent role in the life sciences. I wonder how the National Research Council will handle the flood of protest, though. “When the committee’s final report is publicly released, currently planned to be in the first quarter of 2011, it will include a description of this public comment process and summarize the committee’s responses.” Will complaints about evolution be addressed or just dismissed?

Yet another survey

Monday, July 12th, 2010

A survey was published earlier this year detailing Americans’ attitudes toward science in conjunction with their religious beliefs (download pdf here). The section on evolution is devoid of any real surprises. Jerry Coyne summarizes the results nicely, so I’ll just do a brief recap from the survey:

A majority of the public has heard about the theory of evolution but most report beliefs about life’s origins that diverge sharply from it. A plurality of Americans report beliefs about the origins of life that are consistent with a “creation” perspective; 43% of the nation believes that God directly created life in its present form. Another 24% say life developed over time with guidance from God during the process; this view is compatible with an “intelligent design” or a “theistic evolution” view of life’s origins. A minority of 18% hold beliefs consistent with the theory of evolution saying that life developed over time without guidance from God.

In all, 42 percent of Americans say evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs; about the same portion (43 percent) say the theory of evolution is mostly compatible with their own religious beliefs. A majority (53 percent) considers the evidence on evolution to be widely accepted within the scientific community; 31 percent think many scientists have serious doubts about this.

Another section of the survey discusses findings about “Science in Everyday Life”. This is an interesting contrast to the evolution results:

Fully 84% say it is important for citizens to understand the facts and principles behind new developments in science while 14% think this is not really that important.

Further, about three‐quarters (74%) of Americans wish they had learned more about science in school. Those wanting more science schooling mention biology more than any other science field as something they want to know more about (26% of responses); another 10% of responses mention health and medicine. Physics (10% of responses) and chemistry (9% of responses) are also commonly mentioned.

I agree; I wish the majority of the American public knew more about biology, too.